In the News - Friday, April 16,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
2010 photos (PDF)
of WHS Class of 1924
Agatha MacKinnon Bequette died peacefully Friday,
April 9, 2010, in Visalia. She was 103.
Visitation will be today (Friday, April
16) from noon to 7 p.m. at Salser and Dillard Funeral
Chapel, 127 E. Caldwell Ave., Visalia. A graveside
service will be held Saturday, April 17, at 10 a.m.,
at Three Rivers Cemetery.
Jessie was born September 11, 1906, in
a small apartment above the Pollasky Depot in Fresno
to John and Bessie MacKinnon. The next year, the family
moved to Saskatchewan, Canada, where Jessie’s
father homesteaded a wheat farm.
mother later told me that the winters were so cold
there that the milk would freeze when it was rushed
from the barn to the house,” said Jessie in
a 1994 interview with John Elliott.
In 1909, the Bequettes returned to Three
Rivers. They lived with Jessie’s maternal grandparents,
Walter and Sarah (Higgins) Fry, just up the road from
where the MacKinnons’ house was being built.
The following year, the family moved into their new
was the nicest one in Three Rivers, and I think the
only one with an inside bathroom,” said Jessie.
The home was destroyed by a wildfire
in August 1914. Tragically, Jessie’s father
perished in the blaze while trying to save the family
piano, John’s wedding gift to his wife.
mother, pregnant and too depressed to stay in Three
Rivers, moved to Tulare with my younger sister Edith,”
Jessie said. “That was the time, when I was
seven years old, that my grandfather took charge of
That same year, Jessie’s grandfather,
Walter Fry, had been appointed the first civilian
superintendent of Sequoia National Park. He had served
there as a ranger since 1901.
of my fondest memories are the Sequoia Park inspection
tours made on horseback as a youngster in the company
of Grandpa Fry,” recalled Jessie. “Each
summer, we would start up the South Fork, crossing
Hockett Meadow northward via the Tar Gap trail to
the Montgomery cabin in Mineral King. After leaving
Mineral King, we returned via the Mineral King Road.
I guess I traveled those park trails nearly every
summer since I was nine years old.”
Jessie also recalled her first trip up
the Colony Mill Road, the original access road to
Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park prior to the
opening of the Generals Highway in 1926. She was a
passenger in her grandfather’s Model T Ford,
which Walter Fry had mail-ordered and then learned
to drive in his rolling 40-acre pasture behind his
home (near present-day Hawk Hollow Drive).
Jessie had fond memories of living with
her grandparents. She described the home as “the
heartbeat of Three Rivers” and remembered the
parties and dances that were held there.
families came at nightfall in their buggies and buckboards,”
she said. “Everybody would dance to the music
of the banjo, fiddle, and guitars. Around midnight,
the aromas of fried chicken, baked ham, chocolate
cake, and apple pies would let everyone know it was
time for supper. Then it would be back to dancing
From 1912 to 1920, Jessie attended Sulphur
Springs School. As Jessie lived on the east side of
the Kaweah River, walking to school entailed crossing
a footbridge, which was located just upriver from
the present-day Heart’s Desire gift shop. The
red school building with its telltale bell tower is
today a private residence, located just across the
Airport Bridge on Kaweah River Drive.
When Jessie and her cousin Marjorie Fry
(Fisher) were in eighth grade, they were hired as
the school’s janitors. They were paid $12 a
first job each morning was to carry water from the
river to fill a five-gallon crock at the schoolhouse
because the school water tasted and smelled bad, like
something rotten,” Jessie recalled. “I
guess that’s why they called it ‘Sulphur
Springs.’ Each student had their own mug that
hung on a rack by the crock. As janitors, we swept
up, stoked the woodstove, cleaned the chalkboards,
and generally kept the place up. It was the first
money I ever earned.”
Four students graduated from that eighth-grade
class and attended Woodlake High School: Jessie, Marjorie,
Forest Grunigen, and Viola “Viva” Britten
(Hallford), but Jessie was the only one who continued
to live in Three Rivers during her adulthood.
In the WHS Class of 1924, there were
25 students total. This class was responsible for
first installing the “W” on Antelope Mountain
overlooking Woodlake during their “Senior Sneak
Day.” Subsequent classes maintained the landmark
for nearly 70 more years until access was denied by
Following the installation of the “W”
on that spring day in 1924, the classmates headed
to Terminus Beach — then a public swimming area
on the Kaweah River where the Terminus Dam is today
— for a picnic. This is where Jessie met her
husband-to-be Bruce Bequette, who had graduated from
Woodlake High in 1919 and joined the festivities.
months later, I married that man,” she said.
The newlyweds initially lived at the
Pogue Hotel (present-day Lemon Cove Woman’s
Clubhouse). Bruce soon got a job at Sequoia National
Park where he worked on a botanical project that shipped
thousands of giant sequoia seedlings for experimental
planting throughout the world.
Jessie and Bruce resided in Sequoia National
Park for several years. They later relocated to the
property on which the Three Rivers Historical Museum
stands today and lived in the white house on the knoll
They built the building that now houses
the museum and operated a gift shop, plant nursery,
and service station from 1953 to 1967. When Bruce
died unexpectedly from a heart attack in 1967, Jessie
closed the businesses.
The property remained unoccupied until
1975 when it was purchased by Jeanette Barton, Jane
Cheney, and Nancy Campe and opened as Mountain Arts.
Jessie was a charter member of the Three
Rivers Woman’s Club (1924), Community Presbyterian
Church (1938), and the former Three Rivers Lady Lions,
where she received commendation for 13 years of perfect
attendance. For 15 years, she also served on the board
of directors of the American Cancer Society of Tulare
Jessie was an anomaly in that she was
a very proper lady who was soft-spoken, dressed impeccably,
and always had her hair beautifully done. However,
she was fiercely independent, well-versed in country
living, and totally capable of caring for herself,
her neighbors, and her home and property, which sometimes
entailed wielding her shotgun, and she did that well
into her 80s.
The Woodlake High Class of 1924 met annually
in Three Rivers for reunions from their 60th through
their 75th. They were known locally as the “Woodlake
11,” as that is how many still survived, and
they were celebrated for their longevity and unique
bond of friendship.
In 1993, Jessie left her little white
house on the hill and relocated to Visalia to be nearer
to her nieces. She spent the last few years at Delta
Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
just wish everyone could look back on their life…
and be as happy as I am at this age,” said Jessie,
when she was a spry 87. “Don’t ever underestimate
Three Rivers. It is a wonderful place to live.”
In addition to her husband of 43 years, Bruce, Jessie
was preceded in death by her siblings, Edith Perry,
Thelma Manning, and Russel Weckert.
She is survived by her nieces and nephew
Joan and Paul Thomsen, Rachel Caggiano, and Pamela
Thompson; and great-nieces and great-nephews Carla
Caggiano, Gino Caggiano, Richard Webb, Perri Martin,
Stacey Murphy, and Neil Thomsen.
In lieu of flowers, Jessie requested
donations be made to the Three Rivers Historical Society,
P.O. Box 162, Three Rivers, CA 93271; or Community
Presbyterian Church, P.O. Box 685, Three Rivers, CA
Condolences may be emailed to email@example.com.
River incident is seasonal
The Kaweah River is a huge attraction
for visitors and locals alike. This year, a better-than-average
snowpack promises to bring a spectacular and extended
season for whitewater rafting and river swimming.
This annual attraction brings out-of-town
crowds and even a criminal element, as proven by past
year's river-related incidents. And if last Sunday’s
incident is any indicator, riverfront property owners
had better be prepared for the challenge of keeping
their lands free of trespassers.
The most recent incident occurred Sunday,
April 11, when a carload of six people parked in front
of OrangeRay (formerly Rosemary’s Remembrances)
on Sierra Drive. At first, the four men and two women
stood around drinking beer outside the car, perhaps
sizing up their route to the nearby river.
When they began moving toward the rear
of the property to gain access to the river, the business
owner, Wendi Morrison-Merritt, informed the group
it was private property and they were asked to leave.
At that point, Morrison-Merritt reported,
one of the women in the group threatened the business
owner with physical violence. Cooler heads soon prevailed
and the group departed.
The business owner immediately called
the Sheriff’s Department. The six were tracked
down and contacted by Deputy Al Brockman at the Edison
swimming hole on Kaweah River Drive. After an identification
check, one of the females was arrested on an outstanding
is barely April,” Morrison-Merritt wrote in
an email about the incident. “This town needs
to come together firmly on this longstanding issue.
It is unfair to expect shopkeepers, whose parking,
property, ability to do business… not to mention
lives… are being threatened and impacted by
the aggressive illegal trespassing to gain river access.”
Plans are already in the works to deal
with this recurring issue at the Monday, May 3, Town
Hall meeting. The agenda will feature both Sheriff’s
candidates — Bill Wittman and John Zapalac —
and further discussion on how to deal with trespassing
at the river.
Woman found inside car trunk
Reports that a young woman had been found
locked in the trunk of a car parked at the new parking
lot at Slick Rock Recreation Area caused alarm for
some Three Rivers residents late last week. The excitement
started on the morning of Thursday, April 8, when
Sergeant Gary Hunt of the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department violent crimes division began asking questions
of locals who might have seen something suspicious.
Detectives were summoned to the Slick
Rock scene mid-morning after receiving a 911 cell
phone signal. They inspected a car parked in the lot
and heard noises coming from the trunk.
Apparently, what they found was a Fresno
State coed locked in the trunk of the car. It was
reported that she was unharmed but the three police
jurisdictions involved with the case have not released
any details as to what actually happened.
An officer from the City of Tulare Police
Department confirmed that the woman was a Tulare resident
and she had been reported missing earlier that day.
Because she is a student at Fresno State University,
the campus police are also involved in the investigation.
this time, we have no evidence that the person locked
in the trunk of a car was the result of foul play,”
said Amy Armstrong, public information officer for
the FSU campus police. “As far as we are concerned,
no crime was committed and no charges have been filed.”
Armstrong said the lead agency in the
case is the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.
As of Wednesday, Sergeant Hunt or Sergeant Chris Douglass,
public information officer for the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department, had not returned phone calls requesting
information in the case.
It’s all in the family:
New owners at Kaweah Marina
If you’ve ever been to Kaweah Marina,
it’s a sure bet you’ve met the Mehrtens.
Dale and Joy Mehrten have operated the Lake Kaweah
facility since the day it opened in 1964, and their
daughter Jeanne has helped out since she was just
In fact, the Mehrten family were early
settlers of the area, with their ranch, which is where
Dale was born, located near what is today Horse Creek
Campground, When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
(USACE) came to buy the land in 1959 to make way for
Lake Kaweah and the Terminus Dam, Dale’s folks
were willing to sell.
Realizing their bargaining position,
they arranged with USACE to have preference on the
marina concession as a condition of sale. In 1962,
the federal government sealed the deal and completed
the new dam.
With a 25-year lease locked in, Dale
and his brother Ralph set about to build a family
business, literally. With the ranch soon to be underwater,
they built the original floating bait store and snack
bar in Saugus before transporting it in sections to
the newly created Lake Kaweah.
In a single afternoon, the brothers assembled
the sections and the Kaweah Marina was born. Even
the original patio boats were handbuilt by Dale and
Ralph. Since that time both the marina and the family
have expanded and prospered.
Countless memories have been made on
Lake Kaweah. In 1978, a young Lake Patrol officer
named Brad Howard took particular notice of Dale and
Joy’s daughter, Jeanne. A romance ensued and
Jeanne Mehrten soon became Jeanne Howard.
Brad hailed from nearby Lemon Cove and
soon began a 31-year career with the California Highway
Patrol. Brad and Jeanne have raised four children
and all have had a hand in the Kaweah Marina.
Over the past 46 years, the Mehrtens have served up
bait, tackle, fresh-cooked burgers, snacks, and countless
smiles to thousands of happy boaters and anglers.
By 2006, Dale and Joy began having thoughts of retirement.
Some things are just too good to change,
it seems, and with no buyers coming forward, and Brad
eyeing his own retirement from the CHP, it seemed
a good fit to pass the business to the next generation.
Brad and Jeanne officially took over
the operation of Kaweah Marina on April 1, 2010.
looking forward to it,” said Brad of continuing
the tradition. “Jeanne is training with her
mom to take over the bookkeeping. She has done sales,
ordering, management, and more here for years so it
will be a smooth transition.”
With a fresh 25-year lease, the Howards
will continue to provide affordable family recreation.
In turn, Brad said, he hopes one day to pass the business
onto his children.
is a place where people can come and have a great
time and it won’t cost them an arm and a leg,”
The Kaweah Marina offers food, cold beverages,
ice, bait and tackle, fuel and a variety of boat rentals
as well as 267 private mooring slips available for
For information or reservations, call
Lookouts wanted for fire season
Do you love nature and solitude, have
an adventurous spirit and like the idea of providing
a service to your community and public lands?
Well, if so, then volunteering as a fire watcher
may be for you.
The Buck Rock Foundation provides a volunteer
lookout program that assists in the staffing of three
fire lookouts in the Sequoia-Kings Canyon area: Delilah,
Park Ridge, and Buck Rock. Not only do these lookouts
have magnificent views of the High Sierra and giant
sequoia groves, but they also look into many of our
local designated wildfire “Communities at Risk”
— Squaw Valley, Dunlap, Wonder Valley, Piedra,
Hartland, Miramonte/Pinehurst, Badger, Wilsonia, and
On decent air quality days, Park Ridge
can even see into Three Rivers and called in the first
report of the Horse Fire near Horse Creek in 2004.
Space is still available in the class
of 2010 for interested folks who would like to donate
time during the upcoming fire season to help staff
local lookouts. The pay is lousy, the food depends
on what kind of cook you are, exercise can not be
avoided, and the weather unpredictable.
But the views are incredible, the excitement
sometimes unparalleled, and how often do you get a
chance to do something this unusual and so important?
This is a unique opportunity to give
back to your community while getting away from it
all. This is a small, devoted group of people from
all walks-of-life with a common interest in maps,
weather, wilderness, and “high” adventure.
Volunteer opportunities exist for as many or as few
days as one is willing to give.
To learn more about the program and to
find out if volunteering as a fire watcher is for
you, attend the annual Volunteer Lookout Orientation
on Saturday, April 24, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hume
Lake District Forest Service Office on Highway 180
in Dunlap. Call 336-9319 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
to reserve a seat.
This day is geared for new volunteers
and people with a general interest in what it might
be like to work in a fire lookout. It includes a morning
session of general information and purpose, along
with a front-line training video and guest speakers.
The afternoon is filled with hands-on training of
the tools-of-the-trade, weather observations and basic
The second training will be on Saturday,
May 8, at the Bear Mountain Library in Squaw Valley.
For additional information on volunteering
and local lookouts, visit www.buckrock.org.
Three Rivers Bread Basket:
The Three Rivers Bread Basket has partnered
with Foodlink for Tulare County! As an official Foodlink
Pantry, we will be able to offer dairy and meat products
as well as USDA commodities, in addition to what we
We are very excited about this new venture,
but it also means that we need more help.
Three Bread Basket requires several teams
to keep it running. Please consider volunteering to
be a member of one of the following teams. (Time commitments
Foodlink Delivery Processing:
WHEN— The fourth Tuesday of each month in the
afternoon. HOW LONG?— 2-3 hours each time. WHERE—
Three Rivers Arts Center. JOB DESCRIPTION— Help
to unload food delivered by Foodlink; stock shelves
in the SeaTrain.
Pantry Distribution Setup: WHEN— The second
and fourth Tuesdays of each month in the afternoon.
HOW LONG— 1-2 hours each time. WHERE—
Three Rivers Arts Center. JOB DESCRIPTION— Set
up tables and set up food for packing and distribution.
Food Distribution: WHEN—
The second and fourth Wednesday of each month. HOW
LONG— From 7:30-10:30 a.m. WHERE—Three
Rivers Arts Center. JOB DESCRIPTION— Pack bags
and boxes during distribution hours.
Foodlink Letter Carriers Carriers
Food Drive: WHEN— During May 2010.
JOB DESCRIPTION— Pick up food donations at Three
Rivers Post Office daily and deliver to Three Rivers
If interested in helping, contact Elizabeth
LaMar at 561-4154 or Arlin Talley, 561-3385.
SFCC honors local WWII veterans
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s
final Hero Appreciation Months party of the year,
honoring local veterans, was held at the Three Rivers
Arts Center on Friday, March 26, with special guests
Chris Selby and Guadalupe Sanchez from Fresno, Mobile
Veterans Center readjustment counseling technicians,
with their 39-foot mobile service facility who began
interviewing veterans as soon as they arrived.
Two honorees unable to attend were longtime
Three Rivers residents and former business partners
Bill Hart and Vernon Dixon. Bill had served in the
Merchant Marine during World War II while Vern was
in the U.S. Navy.
Vern later revealed that he was a motor
machinist on a troop transport during World War II.
In 1945-46, he made four trips to the Philippines
transporting army personnel and their landing crafts.
Norman Polly of Lemon Cove also did not attend the
party but sent a pre-recorded video. Norm served in
Army Intelligence in the Pacific and landed at Japan
ahead of the surrender to prepare for the arrival
of the Army of Occupation.
According to Norm, “If it hadn’t
been for Emperor Hirohito, the Japanese would have
fought to the last man and Japan would have been annihilated,
but we would have lost anywhere from 500,000 to a
million men on the assault, because the first thing
we did was tour their defense system, and it was totally
lot of people say President Truman should not have
dropped the atom bomb. If he hadn’t dropped
it, we would have probably lost close to a million
men, because I had access to some of the secret documentation
and President Roosevelt had thought the Russians were
going to help us, and the Russians, they replied that
they did not have the manpower, so it was our task
MacArthur signed the surrender, I was probably just
50 feet from there, watching that. And I was only
21 years old and probably didn’t realize the
significance, but it was quite a historic sight...”
Veteran/honoree Walter Aguilar of Three Rivers was
in attendance. Walter volunteered to fight in World
War II and flew B-25s. It was 1940 and he was 19 years
old. America was not yet officially at war.
His unit was called the American Volunteer Group,
also known as the Flying Tigers. Walter was injured
while fighting with this group, but he says there
were no Purple Hearts back then. He still has scars
on his legs and shrapnel in his face.
veteran with whom I’ve ever spoken say they
are not a hero, but [so-and-so] is a real hero,”
said Leah Catherine Launey, organizer of the Hero
Months and events. “The truth is, each person
who serves during wartime is an important part of
an enormous support system. Some see more combat than
others. Some carry emotional scars. Some carry physical
scars or disabilities. Some give their lives. No one
knows, really, where they will be sent or how they
will be asked to serve, but each does serve, and each
deserves an enormous thank you from us in return.
They are heroes, one and all.”
WHS wants you:
Honor Day this month
Local veterans from World War II to Iraq
and Afghanistan are invited to be guests of honor
at the sixth annual Woodlake High School Veterans
Honor Day. The event will be held Friday, April 23,
at the Woodlake Memorial Building.
The event will begin with a complimentary
continental breakfast at 8:45 a.m. At about 9:40 a.m.,
the students will arrive to visit with veterans and
view their mementos. Following the event, veterans
will be guests during a special lunch that is scheduled
to begin at noon.
To participate in the event and make
a difference in the lives of students, call advisor
Scott Hernandez, 564-3307, ext. 193, or email email@example.com.
Family Farm Fresh offers
Become a fan of Family Farm Fresh’s
Facebook page and be entered into a drawing to win
various prizes, including two months of free deliveries
in Tulare County of fresh produce. Bob McKellar, owner
of Family Farm Fresh, which is based in Ivanhoe, has
promised to donate $1,500 to the Boys & Girls
Clubs of the Sequoias when 3,000 new “fans”
enter the contest on the FFF Facebook page.
Family Farm Fresh is a Community-Supported
Agriculture organization that is celebrating its fifth
anniversary this month. Nearly 40 local farmers are
involved during the year to supply locally grown,
fresh fruit, vegetables, and farm products to members
delivered weekly throughout Tulare County, including
Thursday deliveries to Three Rivers.
The company uses its Facebook page to connect with
customers and others about the benefits of CSAs while
also sharing recipes, updates on basket contents,
and customer comments.